Coronavirus: Hong Kong logs 12 new cases, while officials aim to lower age threshold for jabs under government scheme to 16

Rachel Yeo
·3-min read

Hong Kong recorded 12 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, while the civil service minister revealed authorities were looking at broadening the eligibility criteria for receiving a Covid-19 vaccination by lowering the age threshold to 16.

Four of the latest cases were locally transmitted, of which one was untraceable. The remaining eight infections were imported from France, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines. All but one of the infected people carried a mutant strain of the coronavirus, taking the total number of cases of variant strains identified in Hong Kong to 113. Fewer than 10 people tested preliminary-positive.

The sole unlinked case was an 88-year-old retiree who lives in Ping Tin Estate, Lam Tin. He visited Chiu Fook Cuisine, a restaurant in Kai Tin Shopping Centre, where two infected people had previously eaten. But health authorities stopped short of declaring an outbreak at the restaurant.

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“We still have not yet confirmed any outbreak concerning the restaurant. [In total] there are three cases who have reportedly visited this restaurant. Two of them had contact with each other,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection at a press briefing on Monday. “We’re still investigating whether there’s any relation between [the 88-year-old man] and the other two previous cases.”

Three of the local cases were tied to a superspreading cluster linked to the Ursus Fitness gym, taking the size of the outbreak to 150.

The city’s tally of confirmed infections stood at 11,409, while the death of an 89-year-old man with chronic disease at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the afternoon pushed the number of related fatalities to 204.

Hong Kong herd immunity ‘could be another 300 days away’

According to Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, the government is considering reducing the minimum age – currently 30 – at which residents are entitled to get vaccinated in a bid to boost the city’s drive towards achieving herd immunity.

Nip, who oversees Hong Kong’s vaccine programme, also offered assurances about the size of the vaccine supply, describing it as stable. But he said the arrival of future batches of the jabs might be affected by storage issues, noting that the German-made BioNTech vaccine needed to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. He urged people to get vaccinated to use up stock and free capacity for more shots to land in the city.

“We want everyone to use our existing vaccine supplies, so the next batch can come when they are used up,” he told a radio show.

According to the latest official figures, about 379,600 residents – or roughly 5.8 per cent of Hongkongers aged 16 and above – have been vaccinated. The first batch of people started getting their second round boosters on Monday.

Respiratory medicine specialist Leung Chi-chiu said the ideal scenario was that 70 per cent of the population – the target for herd immunity – would be vaccinated by July, but he noted that seemed unlikely based on current progress.

“If not 70 per cent, then 50 per cent may also have a positive effect towards tackling the pandemic,” he added.

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